MSU/WSCC ag program possible by fall 2016.

October 6, 2015

IMG_8563By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

VICTORY TOWNSHIP — West Shore Community College is a step closer to forming a partnership with Michigan State University’s Institute of Agricultural Technology, which would allow agriculture students to earn an associate’s degree from WSCC and a certificate from Michigan State.

Dr. Randy Showerman, director of MSU’s IAT, spoke to a group of about two dozen people Tuesday night on the campus of West Shore about the type of agriculture program partnerships Michigan State offers at community colleges across the state. Those in attendance included farmers and agriculture professionals from Mason, Manistee and Oceana counties.

Showerman said many people who want to pursue a career in agriculture do not need to earn a bachelor’s degree. The purpose of the certificate program is to prepare students to enter the workforce immediately after post high school education. About 10% of the students in the institute of agriculture continue to earn a 4-year-degree. He said Michigan State has made it easier for certificate earners to transfer credits into a bachelor program.

Students enrolled in the Institute of Agriculture would be West Shore Community College and Michigan State University students. There is a certain track of classes, that would be taught by local experts, that are specifically Michigan State classes. The remainder of the courses would follow the course of earning an associate’s degree from West Shore.

Michigan State courses would be charged MSU tuition while WSCC courses would be charged West Shore tuition rates. Financial aid would be processed through West Shore.

The MSU courses would mostly be taught in the afternoon and evening, Showerman said.

A meeting is expected to be held next month between Michigan State and West Shore officials. One of the expenses of the program will be a shared coordinator. Michigan State would fund half the position.

Showerman said 30 students are needed to hold a successful program and he would like to see the program begin fall 2016. “There are a lot of if’s in there, but I think they are all possible,” he said.

Lisa Stich, WSCC vice president of academic services, said West Shore needs to work on developing the associate’s degree and also review its budget process to fund its half of the coordinator position. She agreed that starting the program next fall is a strong possibility.

“We are thinking this would be a really valuable program for the college,” Stich said, adding the final decision would come from WSCC President Kenneth Urban and the WSCC board of trustees.

“Do you think we have the student population and interest to run a program here?” Showerman asked.

Paul Shoup, superintendent of Mason County Eastern Schools said he believed the program would be successful, especially because of the 40 students that are currently enrolled in the West Shore Educational Service District’s Career Technology Education agricultural science program.

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